Almost Famous: Bat for Lashes
Brit singer Natasha Khan dreams of mystical she-bears and counts Thom Yorke and Björk as fans.
By Jonah Weiner
Blender, October 2007
VIDEO: Bat for Lashes, "What's a Girl to Do"
REVIEW: Bat for Lashes @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC
Throughout her adolescence, Natasha Khan was visited by a recurring dream. “I’m swimming in the ocean at night, facing out from this cave,” she explains. “Suddenly, this massive white whale starts rushing toward me, closer and closer, until we’re just face to face.” For the U.K. native, who performs as Bat for Lashes, dreams are a regular source of inspiration, and this one contains several of her favorite motifs: darkness, fear, wonder and, last but not least, an animal.
Khan, 27, the daughter of a Pakistani dad and a British mom, is at a vegetarian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, wearing a gold feather-shaped earring; there’s peacock plumage tattooed on her right wrist. “I’ve had a few different spirit animals,” she notes. “But the most constant has been the she-bear.”
On her debut album, Fur and Gold, which has already made enthusiastic fans out of Björk, Thom Yorke and Jarvis Cocker, Khan cultivates an animist vibe, singing in a precise, melancholic keen about “creatures of love” and “mystic golden lights.” But before you jump to any unflattering conclusions — coughhippie!cough — what appeals to Khan most about fairy tales is the way they sneak dark themes beneath seemingly innocuous surfaces: Most songs end gloomily ever after.
It’s a dynamic she explores on the single “What’s a Girl to Do,” a ghostly tribute to the girl-group stylings of the Shangri-Las, in which Khan refuses to give her “bat lightning heart” to a hopelessly-in-love boy. “I tried to make the video a bit like Donnie Darko meets E.T.,” she says. “The best children’s stories, for me, involve terrifying encounters, kids leaving safe places and coming into contact with the invisible.” She pauses to chew some tempeh. “I try to create the same space in my music.”